“Wine-searcher is essentially worthless for learning the potential selling prices at auction”
As part of the philosophy of Sell Wine Guide we believe that knowledge and information are paramount to any business transaction and that in the wine industry there’s often a disparity of information. A website like WineAuctionPrices.com can help you level the playing field by working off the same information as the professionals do.
"In my opinion, WineAuctionPrices.com is the single best resource on the internet for lovers of fine and rare wine.” A testimonial from a former wines sales executive from Christie’s says.
Wine Auction Prices lists actual selling prices for collection level wines from the biggest auction houses in America, Europe and Asia. So this can be a powerful tool to know when negotiating with auction houses. We interviewed William Edgerton, owner of WineAcutionPrices.com and Edgerton Wine Appraisals.
Sell Wine Guide: Do you feel this tool is primarily for trade people? Are there short-term subscriptions that can allow a seller to value his collection?
William Edgerton, Wine Auction Prices: This site is for everybody who has valuable wine or wants to know its value, either now or at some time in the past. There is a one-week subscription at $19 for one-time users.
Sell Wine Guide: Many people use Wine-searcher.com for estimating but it only displays the starting prices of current auctions, is that a good method for learning the potential selling prices at auctions?
William Edgerton: Wine-searcher is essentially worthless for learning the potential selling prices at auction. Its sole auction use is to alert someone with an interest in wine when a particular wine is coming up for sale. Once a user has that information he or she needs to contact the auction house for more information or to register to bid. Wine-searcher's prime use is to locate a particular bottle at retail.
Sell Wine Guide: Most of the secondary wine market focuses on really high-end bottles, but there are many wonderful wines that are less famous. Do you feel there’s a demand for second tier and relatively obscure wines from great regions/vintages?
William Edgerton: The secondary market focuses on high-end wines because that's where the money is. Those less well-known wines are extremely well-handled by Wine-searcher. I suspect there is high demand for lesser wines since, among other things, sometimes a bargain can be found. As an example, I like an oaky Chardonnay and my favorite is J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay, made in 50,000-case quantities and sells for $10 and up depending on what state one is in. I've served it blind to literally dozens of folks who think it sells for 2 to 3-times the actual price, it lasts well overnight in the fridge, and has interesting flavors and a lot of character. What's not to like? Another example is older Rieslings from Alsace which age very well and are not expensive.
Sell Wine Guide: You also do professional appraisals (http://www.edgertonwineappraisals.com) – can you tell us a bit about the process, costs etc.
William Edgerton: Wine appraisals are used to value assets - as in divorce; for insurance - as in wines that are wet or cooked from some mechanical malfunction; as in estate work - to provide the IRS the current value as of date of death; and just for owner's curiosity. The process is very similar for most personal property which is finding sales of comparable property and using those sales as a guide for value. No certified appraiser can ethically charge a percentage of the value he or she determines, so charges are usually based upon the estimated amount of time the job will take. For example, the cost of appraising a collection of classed-growth Bordeaux would be lower than the cost to value older Italian wines that are not immediately familiar. So I generally ask to see an inventory before quoting a cost. Once the appraisal is complete, the appraiser may be asked to help sell the wine, and an appropriate cost for that service would be in the range of usual real estate sales commissions.
Sell Wine Guide: What’s the difference between a professional appraisal and the free appraisals offered by the “sell us your wine” stores and auction houses?
William Edgerton: A professional appraiser is usually certified by one of the several appraisal organizations and complies with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice which include ethics, procedures, and report requirements, among other subjects. "Free" appraisals offered by stores are not true appraisals and may be done by individuals who have none of the above qualifications and who may not even know the definition of the value they are providing. Auction houses are providing estimates of selling prices, not appraisals. In sum, providing prices or costs can be done by anyone, but providing value estimates should only be done by an appraiser.
Sell Wine Guide: Provenance is one of the stickiest issues in appraising wine – what are some of the main industry thumb rules for attributing value reduction/increase for provenance issues?
William Edgerton: There is no rule-of-thumb guidance for wine. A "drinking" cellar can have more bottles with exterior damage than an "investment" cellar. Restaurants want pristine labels, but if storage has been perfect, few collectors care a lot about label condition. The key issue is determining any heat affect. Very few casual wine drinkers know that once the temperature inside the bottle reached about 77 degrees the wine is changed chemically and will not return to its pre-heat condition once the temperature is reduced. I have been in hundreds of wine cellars that contain heat-affected wine and it's a major issue.
Sell Wine Guide: Any additional tips for people looking to sell their to stores and auctions?
William Edgerton: At some point the buyer or auction firm will want to inspect the wine. Advance arrangements will have to be made as to what to do with bottles that don't meet reasonable standards. Get the agreement in writing. Make sure the financial arrangements are satisfactory. Once wine bottles change hands it is almost always impossible to identify the exact bottles one had originally. For the extra cautious, maybe even make a tiny ultraviolet mark of the back label or on the bottom of each bottle for any possible future identification.